Archive for February 21st, 2011

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about the books I read. This is partly because I haven’t been reading as much as I want to be, and partly because the books I have been reading are mostly classics that don’t really need any more reviews. I’m sure I don’t have anything to say about a Shakespeare piece that no one else hasn’t said before, or about Little Women (which I finally did finish…I have no idea why it took me so long!). But, yesterday I finished up I’m A Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson, and I actually did jot down a couple of thoughts that might be interesting for you all to read. So here goes:

When I picked up this book I expected to read seemingly endless comparisons of the U.S. and Britain, nearly always with the latter “winning”. What I actually found was an intense passionate longing for my home — New Hampshire. If you’re a granite stater, you’ll feel urgently compelled to return to the stone walls and dirt woods when you read this book. If you’re not, without first visiting you may find yourself planning a transplant just like Bryson did.

The author said he decided to move his family to New England after two decades in old England and his childhood in Iowa. The move, he claims, was simply because he had heard it was “an awfully lovely place”. The reader will soon find out that he was not at all disappointed. He goes on to swoon for a fair amount of the nearly 300 pages in this book. He gushes over the brilliant fall colours that make New England “unquestionably the loveliest place on Earth”, the warm welcome of a small town community, and Thanksgiving (which, of course, anyone in the U.S. would understand, but I think New Englanders hold an even tighter grip on). It was quite nice to read about my home from someone who held it in the same regard as I do.

Of course he did speak highly of Britain as well. There was a lot of praise given for both countries, and an anticipated amount of Bryson-esque teasing for each as well. He commented on the incredible abundance of everything in this country, and on the sad disappearance of our charming old American ways. He mentioned the general well-meaning in our country, but also the ridiculously unnecessary roadblocks of red tape that accompany any official action. Overall, the feeling he created for readers (at least for this reader) was that there is a tiny little town in an American state called New Hampshire that is absolute heaven. I’d then go as far as to say — from personal experience — that most of the rest of the towns in this state are lovely as well.

So, instead of I’m A Stranger Here Myself being about the unfamiliarity of a once-home, it is about the only place on this grand planet that I could ever call a home. I’ve lived in Maine now for two and a half years. It, too, is quite nice, but even though it is just the next state over to the East, it is absolutely incomparable to the land where people live free or die (take or leave the slogan, it’s still the best state).

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